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Having Defeated the ‘Big C,’ Daniel Jacobs is Hardly Intimidated by Canelo

Bernard Fernandez

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When it comes to sports movies, Hollywood has always been partial to boxing. Aside from fictional characters like Rocky Balboa, biopics, some of which have been quite good if not always factually accurate, have been made about Jim Corbett, Jake LaMotta, James J. Braddock, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Chuck Wepner, Micky Ward, Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran, Vinny Pazienza and, of course, Muhammad Ali. There also were a couple of made-for-TV flicks about Rocky Marciano which, sad to say, failed to do the real Rocky justice.

But there are other, seemingly enthralling stories of actual fighters that have yet to get the silver-screen treatment. You’d think someone with clout in La La Land would consider doing something on either or both of the Sugar Rays, Robinson and Leonard. Bernard Hopkins’ tale of his lengthy championship reign after doing hard time in prison would seem to merit a look, as would the inspiring careers of Matthew Saad Muhammad and Arturo Gatti, both of whom made an art form of rallying to win fights they had no business winning.

And if some enterprising producer is looking for a project about a never-say-die scrapper who whipped an opponent scarier than anything he could ever face in the ring, he or she need look no further than the aptly nicknamed “Miracle Man,” Daniel Jacobs, whose career – and earthly existence – was imperiled by osteosarcoma, a rare and insidious form of bone cancer. Eight years ago a large tumor wrapped itself around Jacobs’ spine, paralyzing the then-24-year-old and consigning him to a wheelchair. Told by doctors he likely would never  box again and should be thankful that the osteosarcoma, which was malignant, was caught early enough to likely save his life, Jacobs’ response was to buckle down and work hard enough to whip the “Big C,” cancer, as scary a word as a shout of “shark!” is to summertime beachgoers.

After 17 months of physically and emotionally draining treatment, Jacobs resumed a career that many had wrongly assumed was finished. Thus was conferred upon him the inspirational nickname that suggests that the human spirit indeed can be unconquerable, if bolstered by the kind of resiliency, courage and foresight exhibited by the Brooklyn native who already has demonstrated he is up to the task of defying long odds.

But the story of Daniel Jacobs remains a work in progress, a potential movie in search of a rousing ending. Such an exclamation point might or might not be furnished Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, when the now-32-year-old Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs) puts his IBF middleweight championship on the line against Canelo Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs), who holds the WBA, WBC, lineal and The Ring magazine 160-pound titles.

The bout, which will be streamed internationally by DAZN, is another instance of Jacobs confronting a fearsome “Big C” in the form of Canelo, a -500 wagering favorite (meaning you’d have to bet $500 to win $100) who appears to have everything going for him, with the exceptions of a couple of inches of height and a bit longer reach that certify Jacobs as the marginally larger man. But bigger doesn’t necessarily translate to better, especially inside the ropes, and it will be up to Jacobs to again demonstrate that he is capable of making miracles. When the opening bell sounds, he will be tasked with the formidable challenge of upsetting a highly skilled, laser-focused Mexican national hero during Cinco de Mayo weekend, and in a venue that has become almost as much of a home-field advantage for Alvarez as if the fight were being staged in his backyard in Guadalajara.

“This is a can’t-miss type of fight, a Hall of Famer-type of fight,” said Jacobs, widely regarded as the third-best middleweight in a global landscape where the drop-off after the top two, Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, is and will continue to be stark until proven otherwise. “When you think about top pound-for-pound fighters today, I’m not sure if I’m on that list. But wherever the fans choose to place me, that’s what I’m grateful for.

“The general consensus is that Canelo is not only the face of boxing, but he is probably pound-for-pound one of the best in the sport. I think a victory over him, a convincing victory, would definitely solidify my spot and it would be inevitable for people to know who Daniel Jacobs is.”

Jacobs is correct; as accomplished as he is, he is nowhere to be found on the top 10 pound-for-pound ratings posted by the Boxing Writers Association of America, The Ring and ESPN.com. The vastly popular Canelo, in addition to being the most highly paid active fighter (in October 2018 he signed a five-year, 11-fight deal with DAZN for a staggering $365 million) since Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s retirement, is third on all of the aforementioned lists.

So what other edges does Alvarez seemingly have going into what appears to be, at least on paper, one of the more attractive matchups that can be made in 2019? Well, he is 28, nearly four years younger than Jacobs; he will be appearing for the 12th time in Las Vegas, for the fifth time at the T-Mobile Arena and for the fifth time during Cinco de Mayo weekend. His appearances in Vegas are the boxing equivalents of when Elvis came to town, a cause for breathless celebration not only for locals but for his many fans who pour into town like a tsunami, filling hotels, restaurants and showrooms while loudly proclaiming their support of the red-haired rock star wearing padded gloves.

Jacobs, on the other hand, is most comfortable fighting on the East Coast, especially in New York City venues. Although this will be his ninth bout in Vegas, it will be his first appearance there in nearly nine years, when, leading on all three scorecards, he failed to claim the vacant WBO middleweight belt when he was knocked out in the fifth round by now-retired Russian Dmitry Pirog. In terms of fan support on Saturday night, Jacobs and his smattering of supporters will be as outnumbered as bow tie-wearing certified public accountants at a bikers convention.

But none of that will matter when the first punch is thrown in earnest. Boxing destiny often is played out in strange and unusual ways, and Alvarez-Jacobs would seem to have the potential to provide a surprise or two.

“It is a high-risk fight,” Alvarez acknowledged of the very real threat posed by Jacobs. “I believe Jacobs is unique because he’s a very complete fighter. He can box, he can punch. He’s tall, agile. But I have fought all the styles out there. I can adapt and overcome. I want to be remembered as one of the greats in boxing. I want to continue writing history.”

Can Jacobs triumph? He not only believes he can, but will, and do so emphatically. “I think I’m the bigger hitter and definitely the stronger fighter,” he said, an opinion that may or not be valid. In a town where fortunes can be won or lost on the turn of a single card, boxing is not all that different from high-stakes Texas Hold ’Em. You win big or lose big, but to do either you have to have enough gumption to take a seat at the table.

“This is how Danny has basically been living his life,” said Andre Rozier, Jacobs’ longtime trainer. “He’s been places that none of us ever will – and I pray, never have to – visit. Danny has been through the worst that anybody could be through, and he once again will rise to the occasion.”

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 61: Puerto Rico vs Mexico and a Weekend Look-Ahead

David A. Avila

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Southern California loads up with multiple fight cards this weekend.

It’s Puerto Rico versus Mexico when Luis Feliciano (12-0, 8 KOs) meets Genaro Gamez (9-0, 6 KOs) in the main event at Fantasy Springs Casino on Thursday Aug. 22. It can be seen on RingTV.com and Facebook Watch via the Golden Boy Fight Night page.

“I know all about the rivalry,” said Feliciano who trains in South El Monte, Calif. “I’ve heard about it all my life.”

As long as I can remember, whenever you put standout Boricuas against standout Mexicans, it’s like adding gasoline to a fire. Just stand back. This year alone two Puerto Ricans with world titles were tripped up by Mexican challengers.

But the opposite can happen just as easily.

The first time I actually saw this heated rivalry in action was back in 1981 when Puerto Rican great Wilfredo “Bazooka” Gomez met Mexico’s equally great Salvador Sanchez in a featherweight duel in Las Vegas.

Gomez, at the time, was considered by many as the best fighter pound for pound. He walked into the Caesars Palace indoor arena with 32 consecutive knockouts in 32 wins. After fighting to a draw in his pro debut in Panama, he made sure that his fights did not end in a decision by brutally knocking out everyone in front of him.

Sanchez was the featherweight champion defending against Gomez who was moving up a weight division after cleaning out the super bantamweights. The Mexican fighter from the small farming town of Tianguistenco trained in Mexico City with several of the top fighters of his country. One of his teammates, Carlos Zarate, was wiped out by Gomez two years earlier by getting hit after the bell for a knockdown. He never recovered and it left ill feelings with Mexican fighters, including Sanchez.

The stage was set when they met on August 21, 1981, exactly 38 years ago today. Gomez walked in with a salsa band and Sanchez with a band of mariachis. Both bands dueled with each other. I laughed when I saw that.

Sanchez walked in as the underdog and the two warriors erupted at the opening bell. It was Sanchez who floored Gomez in the first round and looked like he would finish the Boricua. But Gomez got up and would not quit. Still, it didn’t look like the Puerto Rican champion would make it through the second round. He did and more.

Both fighters exchanged punishing blows, daring the other to take each other’s big shots. In one round they exchanged left hooks as if challenging the other to see whose punches were more powerful. Slowly the fight developed in Sanchez’s favor, and in the eighth round the Mexican fighter connected with a combination and down went Gomez. Though Sanchez would win by knockout that day and go on to gain more victories against three more fighters, he would die in a car crash almost a year later in Mexico.

Gomez would go on to knock out several Mexican fighters, including Juan Meza, Juan Antonio Lopez, Roberto Rubaldino and then the coup de grace, the epic knockout win over Lupe Pintor. Gomez would go on to win featherweight and super featherweight world titles. But his fight with Sanchez further ignited the future battles between Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Here we are 38 years later and the wars between fighters from these two countries are still captivating.

Puerto Rico vs Mexico

Feliciano, 26, ironically trains in the heart of Mexican style boxing and is trained by Ben Lira. Though he was raised in Milwaukee, he has spent the past two years in Southern California getting familiar with the pressure style that Mexican fighters impose on their opponents. He’s sparred and fought numerous times against all styles in California, New York and Puerto Rico.

“I feel I’m more than ready for this fight,” said Feliciano recently at the South El Monte boxing gym. “Gamez is a good fighter and that’s what I want to prove myself against, good fighters.”

Gamez, 24, began his pro career as a super featherweight but grew into the lightweight and now super lightweight division. Despite the changes in weight divisions, the San Diego-based prizefighter remains undefeated. He had a strong amateur career and, despite the varying weight divisions, Gamez (pictured with his promoter Oscar De La Hoya) has shown good boxing skills and a sharp boxing IQ.

Both fighters are undefeated and eager to move to the next level. On paper it’s a dead even fight. But you never know when Puerto Ricans fight Mexicans. It can end suddenly.

In a co-main event, Las Vegas-based Blair Cobbs (11-0-1, 7 KOs) meets undefeated Steve Villalobos (11-0-1, 9 KOs) of Mount Vernon, Washington in a 10-round welterweight clash.

Cobbs, a southpaw, has endured a virtual gamut of opposition and the Las Vegas-based fighter, originally from Philadelphia, has emerged unscathed. He signed with Golden Boy and continues to show improvement aside from natural toughness.

Others on the fight card are Mexico’s Raul Curiel (6-0) fighting Alphonso Black in a super welterweight match and lightweights Kevin Ventura (10-0) battling Brian Gallegos (6-1) in a six-round bout. Several other fights are planned.

Carlos Zarate, the great Mexican bantamweight world champion, will be a special guest at the fight card. Zarate, who had 63 knockouts in 66 wins, will also be available for photos and autographs at 6 p.m.

Doors open at 4:30 p.m. Tickets start at $25.

Costa Mesa

On Thursday, Aug. 22, a Roy Englebrecht Events boxing card at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, Calif. features several young prospects including a middleweight showdown between Malcolm McAllister (9-3) and Rowdy Legend Montgomery (5-2-1) in the main event.

Others on the boxing card include Sergio Gonzalez, Jorge Soto, Israel Mercado, Mike Fowler and several others.

Doors open at 7 p.m. For more information call (949) 760-3131.

Corona

On Friday, Aug. 23, Thompson Boxing Promotions presents a summer outdoor event at Omega Products International. In the main event, bantamweight prospect Saul Sanchez (12-0) meets Edwin Rodriguez (10-5-1) in a 10-round fight.

Sanchez, 22, returns to the site of his last battle that took place this past May and ended in a knockout win for the Pacoima, Calif. prizefighter. He’s trained by Joel Diaz and Antonio Diaz and has shown improvement in each of his fights since February 2016.

“I think it’s great that I’m fighting in the same place as such great champions,” Sanchez said. “I put in a lot of work for this camp to make sure I win convincingly. I know Rodriguez is looking to pull the upset, but it’s not going to happen.”

Rodriguez is a tough Puerto Rican who has toppled a couple of undefeated fighters and has never been knocked out. He also briefly held a regional title and has never been an easy foe for anyone.

A welterweight showdown pits Kazakhstan’s Bobirzhan Mominov (10-0, 8 KOs) against Puerto Rico’s Javier Flores (14-2, 12 KOs) in an eight-round fight.

Mominov, 27, fights out of Florida and his last fight was in Costa Mesa this past March.

Flores, 33, is a southpaw slugger who has fought some tough competition. It’s an interesting welterweight matchup.

Others on the fight card that begins at 8 p.m. are heavyweight prospect Oscar Torrez, welterweight Luis Lopez and super featherweight Sebastian Salinas. For more information call (951) 737-7447.

Pico Rivera

Red Boxing International presents another lengthy boxing card at Pico Rivera Sports Arena on Saturday, Aug. 24.

In a lightweight headliner, Angel Flores (5-0, 4 KOs) risks his undefeated record against veteran Roberto Almazan (9-11, 4 KOs) in a six-round bout. Both Flores and Almazan previously fought at the outdoor arena located by the San Gabriel River.

A flyweight matchup pits Axel Aragon Vega (12-2-1, 7 KOs) against Giovanni Noriega (2-4-2) in a six-round fight. Vega, 19, fights out of Ensenada, Mexico and Noriega, 24, hails from Tijuana, Mexico.

Seven other pro bouts are scheduled on the fight card. Doors open at 5 p.m.

San Diego

Middleweights clash on a Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions fight card on Saturday Aug. 24, at Viejas Casino and Resort in Alpine, Calif.

Connor Coyle (10-0) and Rafael Ramon Ramirez (21-4-2) meet in a 10-round middleweight contest. UFC Fight Pass will stream the fight card.

Coyle is an Irishman who now trains in Florida. San Diego’s Ramirez is a fighter who actually fought at the Olympic Auditorium and left boxing for seven years before returning in 2013. He hasn’t lost since losing at the now retired boxing venue in 2004.

Six pro bouts are scheduled for Saturday.

Fights to watch

Thursday Facebook Watch 5 p.m. Luis Feliciano (12-0) vs Genaro Gamez (9-0).

Fri. Showtime, 10 p.m. Shohjahon Ergashev (16-0) vs Abdiel Ramirez (24-4-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 9:30 a.m. PT Sergey Kovalev (33-3-1) vs Anthony Yarde (18-0).

Sat. DAZN 4 p.m. Juan Francisco Estrada (39-3) vs Dewayne Beamon (16-1-1).

Sat. UFC Fight Pass, 7 p.m. Connor Coyle (10-0) vs Rafael Ramon Ramirez (21-4-2).

Sat. Fox Sports1, 7 p.m. Brandon Figueroa (19-0) vs Javier Nicolas Chacon (29-4-1).

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An Eclectic Undercard Girds Juan Francisco Estrada’s Hermosillo Homecoming

Arne K. Lang

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Juan Francisco Estrada: His Hermosillo Homecoming and an Eclectic Undercard

Eddie Hearn, the head of the boxing division of Matchroom Sport, the company founded by his father, sure does get around. Since entering into a joint venture with DAZN in May of last year, Hearn has widened his geographic scope. This weekend, Matchroom is in Hermosillo, Mexico, partnering with Mexican heavyweight Zanfer Promotions on a deep DAZN card headlined by a local man, WBC 115-pound title-holder Juan Francisco Estrada.

Estrada (39-3, 26 KOs) is widely considered the top fighter in his weight class. He’s 13-1 since losing on points to Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez who was then undefeated and climbing the list of the world’s top pound-for-pound fighters. The lone defeat was to Chocolatito’s conqueror, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (aka Wisaksil Wangek), and Estrada avenged that setback in his last outing, winning the WBC belt to become a title-holder in a second weight division.

The challenger, Dewayne Beamon (16-1-1, 11 KOs), hails from Goldsboro, North Carolina. He had 11 of his first 12 fights in the Tar Heel State, the other in neighboring Virginia, and fought his last six fights in Mexico. He’s 34 years old.

Beamon certainly hasn’t done enough to warrant a shot at a world title and hailing from North Carolina is a knock against him. North Carolina cranks out about as many good pro boxers as North Dakota cranks out good pro basketball players, which is to say hardly any at all. In common with several other states, North Carolina has become a feeder lot, a place where boxers are fed soft touches to pad their records and make them palatable as opponents for pugilists higher-up in the food chain. But having said that, we have a nagging suspicion that Beamon will make things interesting.

Beamon excelled in football and basketball at a small college in Virginia that has since dropped its football program, impressive for a five-foot-four fellow whose playing weight was somewhere south of 140 pounds. The son of a minister, he came to boxing late because his parents were opposed to it and as an amateur he was good enough to advance to the National Golden Gloves tournament. His curious nickname, “Stop Running,” dates to his amateur days and was a nod to the fact that none of his opponents were willing to stay in the pocket and trade punches with him.

The aforementioned Sor Rungvisai is also under contract to Matchroom/DAZN. A win by Estrada is expected to propel him into a rubber match with the Thai. Their previous fights were highly entertaining and a third meeting would be welcomed with raves by serious boxing fans.

– – – –

Notable British boxers Liam “Beefy” Smith and Jono Carroll and hot heavyweight prospect Filip Hrgovic are also on the card.

Liverpool’s Smith, one of four fighting brothers (the youngest, Callum Smith, just may be the best 168-pound fighter in the world) has lost only twice in 30 starts, both coming in world title fights, the first with Canelo Alvarez and the second with Jaime Munguia. He is matched against Mexican veteran Mario Alberto Lozano (33-9, 24 KOs) who went the distance in a 10-round fight with Jermell Charlo in 2014.

Jono Carroll (16-1-1, 3 KOs) made a lot of new fans in his U.S. debut in March when he battled defending IBF 130-pound champion Tevin Farmer hammer-and-tongs in Farmer’s hometown of Philadelphia.

This was a match between two southpaws, neither of whom was known as a hard puncher. On paper, it figured to be boring, but au contraire it was a feisty squabble in which the combatants threw a combined 2,050 punches according to BoxRec, 1,227 by Carroll. When the smoke cleared, Farmer won a close but unanimous decision, after which he reportedly took Carroll along for a post-fight meal, a Philly cheesesteak, natch.

The heavily bearded Irishman, who made his pro debut in Australia, is an interesting character. It figures that he will have a less strenuous fight in Hermosillo where he is matched against Mexican journeyman Eleazer Valenzuela (20-11-4, 16 KOs).

Filip Hrgovic (8-0, 6 KOs) needs to be busier. Although he has a far stronger amateur background than fellow young guns Daniel Dubois and Efe Ajagba, they have surpassed him in terms of name recognition.

The six-foot-six Croatian, who trains in Miami, needed only 60 seconds to dispatch Gregory Corbin in his U.S. debut in May. On Saturday, he opposes Mario Heredia (16-6-1, 13 KOs) who stands 5-foot-10 and carried 275 pounds in his last fight against Samuel Peter in Atlantic City. He earned this assignment by defeating Peter, winning an 8-round split decision.

“After his countryman Andy Ruiz’s win and his win in his last fight against Samuel Peter, (Heredia) surely has the wind in his sails,” Hrgovic told a reporter for a Croatian paper.

Hrgovic will take the wind out of his sails.

For some folks, the 10-round junior welterweight contest between Shakhram Giyasov (8-0, 6 KOs) and Darlys Perez (34-4-2, 22 KOs) is the most intriguing match on the card.

Columbia’s Perez, a former interim WBA lightweight title-holder, has lost two of his last three, late stoppages at the hands of Luke Campbell and Maxim Dadashev, but before that he out-fought future super lightweight titlist Maurice Hooker in a bout that was confoundingly scored a draw. Perez is definitely a step up in class for the fast-rising Giyasov, a silver medalist for Uzbekistan at the 2016 Olympics.

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Hughie Fury vs. Alexander Povetkin: At the Crossroads

Ted Sares

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Hughie Fury vs Alexander Povetkin will be on the undercard of the Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Luke Campbell world lightweight title fight on August 31 at the O2 in London.

Fury is 23-2 while the Russian is 34-2 but these records somewhat hide the fact that the loser will need to reevaluate things while the winner can move on to bigger things. In short, a win can catapult Hughie (Tyson Fury’s cousin) to the world stage, but a loss in this, his Matchroom debut, can be disastrous, especially coming after his ugly win against a bloated Samuel Peter in a foul-fest this past July.

Said promoter Eddie Hearn, “Hughie will have to come through fire in this fight to win but, if he does, the rewards are huge.”

That’s a big “if.”

Povetkin turns 40 in a few weeks. Father time takes no prisoners and Povetkin is hardly the Povetkin of old. He was dismantled by Anthony Joshua and was even in trouble against big David Price. But “Sasha” has fought much stiffer opposition and is heavy-handed with many notable wins on his resume.

Fury himself said, “You can’t underestimate Povetkin. One [wrong] move and you get your head taken off.”

So, the two will be at the crossroads. And Robert Johnson said it best in these lines from his iconic “Cross Road Blues”:

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above “have mercy, now save poor Bob, if you please”

Ooh, standin’ at the crossroad, tried to flag a ride
Ooh-ee, I tried to flag a ride
Didn’t nobody seem to know me, babe, everybody pass me by

Many pundits (but not this one) think Fury, being the younger and fresher man, will prevail in the fight as youth trumps experience, but others, including the oddsmakers that made Povetkin the favorite, assert that the more experienced Russian is stronger and more dangerous and will not stop moving forward.

Fury adds, “My mind is good at the moment….I’ve had a bit of bad luck with boxing, health issues and all that….It has been frustrating at times but that’s all behind me now and we’ve got a good team behind me. We’re ready now….Nobody has got the experience I have at my age. I’ve fought all over the world and I haven’t been protected. I’ve had experience that nobody else has ever had, especially at my age.”

However, his last effort against former titleholder but now woefully dreadful Samuel Peter in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia was, well, dreadful. BLH’s Scott Christ nailed it: “The cousin of Tyson Fury is not known as one of the world’s more exciting heavyweights, to put it kindly, but he’s a good technician who understands how to use his physical advantages, and he kept range easily against Peter, who was never much of a mover and at this point has cinder blocks for feet.”

One notable thing the combatants have done is signed on to be tested by VADA, both before and after their fight. “It is impossible to say in advance how many doping samples will be collected in total,” Povetkin’s promoter Vadim Kornilov told TASS. Given Povetkin’s record on this account, the VADA tests are a welcomed addition.

Ted Sares is a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). He is an active power lifter and Strongman competitor in the Master Class.

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